There are only two things of which I can be absolutely certain: firstly, I’ll never perform The Black Swan Pas de deux with the outrageously talented Misty Copeland, and secondly, at some point, I am going to die. Any of us who have been touched by the death of a loved one will know that the feelings associated with this sadness are entirely different from contemplating one’s own death. When the death of a loved one occurs life may become unbearable as we, who are left behind, reflect. The agony and dejection we feel may lead us to a place of utter melancholy. I understand the inevitability of Basil Creese Jr no longer existing even though, right now, my own death seems an impossibility. I do not, however, perceive my impending death as a cause for concern.
Part of the reason for this is the movie Ghost Dog, directed by Jim Jarmusch, starring Forest Whitaker as the titular protagonist, and featuring music from The RZA. This film is an understated masterpiece which uses the Hagakure, an eighteenth century spiritual guide for Samurai warriors, as the key text. At the beginning of the movie, Ghost Dog – a mafia hitman who follows the Samurai code and subscribes to old fashioned notions of honour and loyalty – quotes from the Hagakure: “Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai.”
And so that’s pretty much what I try to do, usually when I’m on the phone to someone from British Gas. Our priorities change as we get older and it’s the prospect of leaving this mortal coil which usually informs these changes. All of us can intellectualise what remains an abstract notion of death, but it becomes more and more tangible and real as we get older. I have to say the thought of dying causes me no great anxiety, although I do wonder how I’ll die. After all, I’d hate my death to be the punchline to a joke. With that in mind here are what I consider to be the 10 worst ways to die.
This article was first posted on June 17, 2013